Under confident

Naomi Oreskes has a recent article in the New York Times called Playing Dumb on Climate Change. The article discusses statistical significance and, in particular, Type I (false positive) and Type II (false negative) errors. The basic point being made is that scientists would typically aim to avoid Type I errors (don’t make a scientific claim unless you’re pretty confident that you’re correct) while in a risk assessment scenario one might be more conscious of making a Type II error (don’t claim there isn’t a chance of something severe happening when it’s possible that there is).

So, the basic argument that Naomi Oreskes seems to be making is that scientists should be willing to speak out about the risks of climate change even if they aren’t confident (in a statistical sense) about what will actually happen. Personally, I thought the argument seemed perfectly reasonable. It does, however, seem to have some others rather up in arms. Most of the argument against this seems to be claims that Naomi Oreskes doesn’t understand statistics, but it’s hard not to interpret the criticisms as being based on a desire to encourage scientists not to speak out about the risks associated with climate change.

However, I thought I might make some additional comments that are based on the possible – but maybe unlikely – chance that much of the disagreement is cultural (in an academic/research sense, rather than societal sense). To me, and possibly to most physical scientists, statistics is simply a tool. It allows you to extract information from datasets and, as discussed in Naomi Oreskes’ article, to gain some idea of how confident one can be in one’s analysis.

However, statistics is not the be all and end all of data analysis and, in some cases, isn’t even really used. I don’t (and this may seem obvious 😉 ) use formal statistical analysis very often. Much of what I do is to consider a particular physical system and to try and understand how it will evolve under certain conditions. If I want to understand which conditions are most likely to match reality, then using statistics becomes an important part of the analysis, but I don’t need to use formal statistics if all I want to know is what happens if something changes.

However, even in the case where one is using formal statistics, one still has to be careful of how to interpret the results. If a statistical analysis suggests that a model is consistent with observations, but you know that the model violates one of the fundamental laws of physics, you would reject that model despite the statistical analysis. On the other hand, if you’re considering a simple system where you’re confident that you understand the underlying physics well, you wouldn’t reject your model if the statistical analysis suggested that the model was inconsistent with the data – you’d probably check, or improve, the data.

I guess what I’m getting at is that in the physical sciences you have much more than just statistics; you also have the laws of physics which you can use together with, and in the absence of, statistics. Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that statistics isn’t important or useful, simply that we can be confident about our understanding of a physical system without necessarily needing to resort to, or rely on, statistical tests.

I had a brief discussion about this with Michael Tobis in the comments on his post about Naomi Oreskes’s article. I thought I’d end with something that Michael said that I’ve pondered myself and that may be relevant to this whole discussion.

The obsession with “the attribution question” has been driven by (political) denialism using (statistical) frequentism as a weapon. Reason is fundamentally Bayesian, and frequentism should be considered just a weird corner of Bayesian thought.

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195 Responses to Under confident

  1. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: A footnote defining “frequentism” would seem to be in order.

  2. John Hartz says:

    FWIW: My inner voice says this thread will be lively and lenghty.

  3. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Great toon. It helps.

  4. I’m not sure I can actually explain frequentism all that well, but that’s never stopped me before. In frequentism the likelihood of something being true is simply set by the relative frequency in a large number of tests/trials. I guess linear regression of the temperature anomaly data is frequentist. You can determine a best fit straight line and determine the uncertainty. The uncertainty tells you the likelihood of a particular trend value.

  5. My main objection to the article is that she faults scientists for something that may apply to discussion of those issues elsewhere, but not within science and not extensively by scientists.

  6. Pekka,
    That may be a fair point. Scientists’ are certainly not obliged to speak out. Their role is, first and foremost, to do scientific research. My own personal view is that we should be supporting those who choose to do so without criticising those who choose not to. Of course, we are free to criticise what people choose to say, but we can do so without criticising their decision to say something.

  7. dikranmarsupial says:

    …aTTP see discussion of the (excellent) cartoon here

    stats.stackexchange.com/questions/43339/whats-wrong-with-xkcds-frequentists-vs-bayesians-comic/

    It does illustrate the problem with “the null ritual” often used in science, due to a lack of understanding of the subtleties of the frequentist approach. The Bayesian approach is more easily understood (or less easily misinterpreted), but sadly harder to perform in most cases. The key point is really that statistics is not as simple as selecting the appropriate recipe from the “statistics cookbook”, you really need to know what question you are asking before designing a test to answer it in as direct and unambiguous manner as practicable.

    “I guess what I’m getting at is that in the physical sciences you have much more than just statistics; you also have the laws of physics which you can use together with and in the absence of statistics.”

    This is a very important point, one of the problems with conventional hypothesis testing is that it doesn’t take into account the relative plausibilities of H0 and H1 (H1 usually doesn’t even appear in the test!), but quite often we have very well understood knowledge of physics that the test completely ignores. This can be incorporated to an extent by changing the level of significance of the test (which is the point made by the cartoon), but all to often the threshold is set at 95% for no particularly good reason. In inferring causation from correlation (or other statistical methods), you need both statistical evidence *and* a plausible theory for the underlying physical process. If the theory is strong, you need to set your significance level to a lower value (great claims require great evidence).

  8. John Hartz says:

    Dikran: The cartoon does seem to have a Bayesian bias, or am I misreading it?

  9. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In frequentism the likelihood of something being true is simply set by the relative frequency in a large number of tests/trials. ”

    I’d say “In frequentism a probability is simply set by the relative frequency in a large number of tests/trials.” a frequentist can’t actually assign a probability to the truth of a particular hypothesis as it doesn’t have a long run frequency, it either is true, or it isn’t. The problem with frequentist hypothesis tests is that we really want to know the probability that H1 is true, but it is the one thing frequentist statistics can’t give you.

    http://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/22/bayesian-and-frequentist-reasoning-in-plain-english/1602#1602

  10. dikranmarsupial says:

    John Hartz, yes, however I read it as more of a criticism of the “null ritual” (i.e. badly applied frequentist statistics) versus common sense rather than as implying the superiority of Bayesian methods (the Bayesian doesn’t actually set out an analysis).

  11. I’ve had folk demanding that someone analyses the trend in the sparse and low precision global pH data before the 1980s. I suspect they are naive frequentists expecting that the trend will not be statistically significant and they can claim acidification in a myth.

    In reality, we have strong prior knowledge about the rate of acidification and weak data. The posterior after a Bayesian analysis will be almost exactly the same as the prior.

    I’ve seen the same problem so many times from climate sceptics. Take a short time series, ignore the prior and claim no change.

  12. Dikran,

    I’d say “In frequentism a probability is simply set by the relative frequency in a large number of tests/trials.” a frequentist can’t actually assign a probability to the truth of a particular hypothesis as it doesn’t have a long run frequency, it either is true, or it isn’t.

    Thanks, I knew I wouldn’t get it quite right.

    Richard,
    That’s a good example and I agree. There are many examples of people blindly applying some kind go statistical test and making some kind of strong claim as a result.

  13. dikranmarsupial says:

    “The basic point being made is that scientists would typical aim to avoid Type I errors (don’t make a scientific claim unless you’re pretty confident that you’re correct)”

    This really sums up Richards (excellent) point. Generally skeptics are using the lack of statistical significance as evidence to support their claim, and thus the test doesn’t provide the self-skepticism that at least trying to avoid a type-I error provides. H0 should be the thing you are arguing against!

  14. Lucifer says:

    At least one of many possible very bad things will happen to each of us, at least once:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_causes_of_death_by_rate#Causes_ranked_by_frequency

    But weather and climate don’t even make the list.

    From this perspective alone, we see that climate change is exaggerated.

    Yes, climate is changing, mostly evidenced by warming.

    But warming is not particularly adverse or even significant.

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    Of course death is the *only* thing we have to worry about.

  16. Lucifer,
    Well, you’re quite right that one way we could end up adapting to climate change is by dying. Of course, you’re also right that it’s unlikely that anyone will die directly because of climate change. That doesn’t mean, however, that changes to our climate won’t influence the lives of those living on this planet.

  17. I see Bayesian reasoning to be essentially identical to all scientific reasoning. That can be reversed to mean than contradicting correct Bayesian reasoning means also giving up the right attitude towards science.

    Bayesian statistical analysis is a subset of Bayesian reasoning.

  18. Pekka,

    I see Bayesian reasoning to be essentially identical to all scientific reasoning.

    I think that’s roughly what Michael Tobis was getting at in the quote of his that I included.

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    One thing Lucifer’s list does illustrate is how irrational we are as a species, given that the majority of people in the developed world know perfectly well that their lifestyles are risk factors for many of the causes of death that top the list, but do nothing about it, even though they know it is in their best interests. This is because the benefits of drinking/smoking and eating are moderate, but immediate whereas the disadvantages are potentially severe but deferred, so we largely end up (irrationally) discounting the disadvantages. One of the real problems with deciding what to do about the physical and statistical evidence on climate change is being rational about the discounting involved in the cost-benefit analysis that follows. Sadly I suspect we will be concentrating on the immediate benefits of fossil fuel use until it is too late to avoid the environmental consequences.

    Having said which, I am off to the gym.

  20. Lucifer says:

    Good for you.

    I think I’ll walk home for a vegetarian lunch. ( and hope I don’t get run over on the way ).

  21. Willard says:

    > I’ve had folk demanding that someone analyses the trend in the sparse and low precision global pH data before the 1980s. I suspect they are naive frequentists […]

    That or sea lions:

    Source: http://wondermark.com/1k62/ (via Dr. Doom).

  22. BBD says:

    Have you worked out what “revenue neutral” means yet, Lucifer? Or how inappropriate your screen name actually is?

    😉

  23. John Hartz says:

    Lucifer: I suspect that your trite comment would go over like a lead ballon to the Quechua Indians of Peru and other peoples of the world who are already experiencing the negative consequences of manmade climate change.

    For details about what’s confronting the Quechua Indians of Peru, see:

    Climate Change Threatens Quechua and Their Crops in Peru’s Andes by Fabiola Ortiz, Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 29, 2014

  24. “Scientists’ (sic) are certainly not obliged to speak out. Their role is, first and foremost, to do scientific research.”

    Surely being a member of the human race trumps being a scientist? If your discipline is medicine (say you’re a doctor) and you discover something that’s putting your fellow humans at risk, wouldn’t you consider it your duty to speak out? So what’s different if you’re a physicist who discovers something dangerous? Or let’s say you’re a geologist who discovers Vesuvius is about to blow?

  25. Peter Jacobs says:

    Pekka Pirilä writes: “My main objection to the article is that she faults scientists for something that may apply to discussion of those issues elsewhere, but not within science and not extensively by scientists.”

    I read this somewhat differently. I won’t claim powers of mind-reading, but I think that she’s not simply making a comment about the reticence of scientists to engage in public outreach, but by the incredibly counterproductive outreach some, like Hoerling’s NOAA extremes group, are actively engaged in. Ignoring everything but precipitation in claiming a drought is due to natural variability rather than climate change is a conceptual error, and one that plays into the dynamics she was talking about.

  26. As far as I know no human has ever died due to the impact of an asteroid. So why is NASA spending so much on the NEO programme?

  27. anoilman says:

    Anders… Umm We do know people will be killed by Climate Change. Increasing temperatures kill people, and the study I read even took into account adaptation.

  28. AoM,
    Ahh, I was being particularly pedantic. Climate change isn’t really a thing. In the case you mention it will be a heatwave. Medically, it probably has some kind of name.

  29. afeman says:

    Murphy was an optimist; Lucifer is a naive frequentist.

  30. Michael 2 says:

    johnrussell40 says: “So why is NASA spending so much on the NEO programme?”

    I usually phrase it as “so little” and the reasons are pretty well established by the commentary already on this thread. Knowing precisely when everyone is going to die is probably not all that useful especially since government is unlikely to publish that kind of information anyway.

  31. M2,
    That sounds a little conspiracy-theory like. FWIW, I think we now track virtually all near earth asteroids bigger than about 300m in size, and this information isn’t secret.

  32. russellseitz says:

    One of the hazards of the Bayesian course is that it can lead to confusion of frequency and iteratio

    When models require a score or more of parameters upon which to operate, it scarcely signifies whether the confidence interval on each of them is 90% or 95%, because the sum of those minor uncertainties translates into vanishingly low levels pf probability for the ensemble– a problem Steve Schneider wrestled with in his 1986 Foreign Affairs artilcle, ‘Nuclear Winter Reappraised’

    The precautionary principle often collides with an axiom that can be regarded as Murphy’s Second Law of Dystopic Processes: if everything must go wrong, don’t bet on it.

  33. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: You state:

    Climate change isn’t really a thing.

    Guns are definitely things but the NRA (U.S) would have us believe that they cannot kill.

  34. JH,

    Guns are definitely things but the NRA (U.S) would have us believe that they cannot kill.

    Well, yes, I was being a little obtuse.

  35. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes: “We now track virtually all near earth asteroids bigger than about 300m in size, and this information isn’t secret.”

    NASA is a government agency. If the government decides to not list an asteroid, how adept are you going to be to uncover that secret or know that one exists?

    “GOV”: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/

    Obviously I’m having a bit of fun with the original question. Asking an open-ended meaningless question invites creative responses. If a reader has a point to make, just make the point (duh).

    Since the reader asked why NASA was spending so much, it would have helped to provide how much is “how much” with a link such as:

    http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/508_2015_Budget_Estimates.pdf

    Near Earth Object gets 20 million dollars of NASA’s 16 billion dollar budget in 2013. That’s not “how much”, that’s “how little”; barely over 1/10th of a percent. Climatology studies are budgeted in several categories but looks like about a billion dollars in the Earth Sciences department.

    So if you are an astronomer, it’s probably time to consider a career change.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/main/index.html

  36. M2,

    So if you are an astronomer, it’s probably time to consider a career change.

    Astronomers do more than just look for near earth asteroids.

  37. Richard says:

    Naomi Orekes argues an interesting case, particularly in respect of the arbitrariness of the 95% confidence limit. But I am not convinced the analysis or conclusion are correct. Or even, ATTP, that this is some arcane disagreement about statistical methods.

    The case of smoking was mentioned in the article. In the Royal College of Surgeon’s 1962 report on “Smoking and health”, which “Using the research of Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford Hill, it made a strong epidemiological case for the harm done by smoking. It called on government to implement a raft of public health measures to reduce cigarette smoking…” [Ref. https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/resources/smoking-and-health-1962 ]

    Interestingly, R A Fisher was a critique of the original research, suggesting the ‘constitutional hypothesis’ (some predetermined disposition to smoke amongst those more susceptible to lung cancer). But this was rejected by the report and George Davey Smith has noted in a paper on early observational meta-analysis (Ref. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/5/1169.full )

    “Cornfield and colleagues pointed out that it was unlikely that a randomized controlled trial with 30–60 years follow-up would ever be carried out to demonstrate that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer. Ironically, in writings elsewhere Fisher discussed the analogies between his pioneering work in randomized experiments and genetics, and stated that ‘Genetics is indeed in a peculiarly favored condition in that providence has shielded the geneticist from many of the difficulties of a reliably controlled comparison’.”

    If randomized trials over 30-60 years is problematic for populations of smokers, how much more difficult is it for a singular and unique complex system, namely planetary climate of earth!
    Of course quite different methods and applications are used, to explore sensitivity to variables and pathways no doubt.

    Her argument felt to me a little bit like a reformulation of the ‘precautionary principle’ … if the “costs” are astronomic, then even if the “probability” is low, then the risk (cost x probability) can be high. In the case in hand the probability of dangerous AGW is not low of course, but relatively high (with the fundamental cause much simpler in fact than for smoking), and increasing.

    Based purely on a precautionary ‘risk’ argument, the case for action is compelling. I am not sure there are any scientists keeping quiet because the probability is 90% and they are waiting for it to get to 95%. The reasons they are keeping there heads down may be because of the vitriol and grief that comes their way (and Mann is not alone), fuelled by The Merchants of Doubt … but then Naomi knows a little bit about that I understand!

  38. Richard,

    The reasons they are keeping there heads down may be because of the vitriol and grief that comes their way (and Mann is not alone), fuelled by The Merchants of Doubt … but then Naomi knows a little bit about that I understand!

    Yes, I suspect that this does indeed play a big role in what scientists are willing to say publicly.

  39. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz says: “Guns are definitely things but the NRA (U.S) would have us believe that they cannot kill.”

    Got link?

    Of course guns can kill, but you’d have to hit someone pretty hard with one on a vulnerable spot. In that sense they are about as dangerous as a golf club or baseball bat; maybe not even that dangerous.

    What they are not capable of (usually) is independent action. I was surrounded by guns for my entire military career and, guess what? I’m still here. Not a one of them decided to impact itself upon me.

    Occasionally someone realizes it is the small piece of metal traveling a thousand meters per second that is dangerous. The gun is no more dangerous than a spanner wrench (and no less; you could drop either on your foot).

    Well, so far we have a discussion of guns and near earth objects (asteroids) both of which probably have something to do with climate. Maybe it will become clear in the next round of commentary.

  40. Infopath says:

    Dikran, you fool, come back from your workout! Lack of exercise is NOT on that list Lucifer linked to! And since neither is not getting enough sleep, eating crap or drinking oneself into oblivion every night, I’m now free from most of my New Year’s resolutions!

    Time to do stuff I always wanted to try, like taking a 5-hour nap in my car with the engine on and the garage door closed (NOT on the list, ladies & gents!). And before anyone claims it’s suicide (which IS on the list), my intention is simply to adapt to a possible future.

    I’ll back in 5 hours. Maybe.

  41. mikkel says:

    I find the agreement that a Bayesian is analogous to the scientific process to be amusing because I’ve almost never seen Bayesian models used in any hard science. In fact, I was only exposed to them due to AI courses and have constantly had to describe them to researchers of all stripes; at which point they agree it is more in line with their methodology but then say they a) don’t know how to apply Bayesian statistics and b) it wouldn’t be accepted anyway.

    The main problem with climate research hasn’t been the p-value it’s selected, but its insistence on communicating within a frequentist framework at all, particularly given the time lags, complex processes and single-experiment case.

    As dikranmarsupial points out, frequentist approaches can’t actually assign a probability of truth, and therefore can’t be weighted in context of a risk model. Nor can it be iteratively updated with new observations. Therefore, it’s of marginal utility in any context that requires on-line decision making about behavior, like global warming, medical procedures, etc.

    I’m biased because I think that science of complex systems should have a purpose, and without a directed goal, study of the system doesn’t even make a whole lot of sense. In that context, I believe the scientific community certainly does have an obligation to communicate its findings and to construct its hypotheses in ways that are most useful for long term decision making by outsiders. This means formalizing their work in context of risk models.

    ATTP is certainly correct that underlying ‘laws’ (either formal, or collective understanding within a discipline) drive much of science, only using statistics to evaluate details, but the distance between these laws and the formalisms is astounding — at least in my experience in ecology, medicine and climate.

  42. Richard says:

    M2 … Don’t think of moving to Planet X, you are banned there 🙂 (Reference http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9pOiOhxujsE ) … Where the removal of guns appeared to lead to a massive drop in all kinds of gun deaths. There we are again, correlation without a randomised trial.

  43. mikkel says:

    dikranmarsupial: “This is because the benefits of drinking/smoking and eating are moderate, but immediate whereas the disadvantages are potentially severe but deferred, so we largely end up (irrationally) discounting the disadvantages”

    I really wish that we could begin to look past this narrowly true statement and into a deeper truth.

    Yes, people do unhealthy things for the “benefits” but on the other hand, people who live healthy lifestyles are much more likely to be happy and enjoy life. One could say I am sacrificing a lot — I quit academia/’job security’, rarely drive, spend much of my free time converting my land (and soon others’) into permacultured landscapes, and almost all of my money on projects that I hope will actively address global warming, food and energy issues at scale. However, to me, these things are not only not sacrifices, but the best use of time and money that I can imagine. It has allowed me to center and find connection socially, to nature and to myself that was sorely missing beforehand. It has also allowed me to accept the nature of change and feel resilient in the face of our challenges, no matter what happens, even the worst. Now I live (generally) without fear and am able to help many others in empowerment.

    Similarly, starting an intense exercise program and good diet makes me appreciate my physicality, rather than finding it an annoying appendage onto my intellect.

    So in that sense, the advantages are not only enormous but immediately felt on a day to day basis, leading to endlessly new sources of frustration and engagement. Speaking with others who are on a similar journey, my feelings are common.

    So let’s not call the things you list advantages (when done too frequently), call them what they are: addictions. They don’t cause deep enjoyment, they are merely self medication to the anxious and depressed in a sociopathic and confusing world. When put into a larger context, healthiness will beat out addiction in terms of happiness, both short and long term and that is entirely true for fossil fuel addiction.

    Hell, it’s even been shown that ‘physical addiction’ for drugs is largely environmental. This is hardly surprising — just talk to an addict about why they use — but even among rats, they stop hitting the lever once they have a proper environment and social companionship.

    The way to change people’s behavior isn’t to chastize or lament about hedonistic discounting, but to reframe the conversation onto directly accessible and short term promise of meaning, connection, security and belonging.

  44. Vinny Burgoo says:

    John Hartz, you’re a card. You’d make sea lions of us all with your cuddly picturesque Quechas and their unsupported anecdotes about climate change.

  45. Michael 2 says:

    Richard says: “M2 … Don’t think of moving to Planet X, you are banned there”

    I am self-banned from many places.

    “Where the removal of guns appeared to lead to a massive drop in all kinds of gun deaths.”

    Followed by a dramatic increase in baseball bat deaths, particularly in the UK:
    http://rightoffthebatbook.com/2011/08/11/baseball-versus-cricket-the-weapon-of-choice/

    “It is a fact that more people are murdered every year by baseball bats than assault rifles.”
    http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-baseball-bat-as-deadly-weapon.html

    Cue the law of unintended (?) consequences.

  46. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Mikkel, when 60% and more of adult males smoked, where they all anxious and depressed?

  47. Michael 2 says:

    Vinny Burgoo says: “Mikkel, when 60% and more of adult males smoked, where they all anxious and depressed?”

    Where I worked in Alaska, 3 out of 50 persons did not smoke. It was the non-smokers that were anxious and depressed. Sticky goo covered everything and caused frequent malfunction in electronic equipment. Some of the smokers were also anxious and depressed; all become anxious just before they light up another cigarette. Their hands start to flutter uncontrollably and then without even consciously realizing it, they grab a cigarette and light it. Their fists are clenched in cigarette-holding mode all day even when not holding a cigarette, making it pretty easy to spot the smoker even when not smoking.

  48. John Hartz says:

    Vinny Burgoo: Get thee to Peru and see for yourself.

  49. Joseph says:

    Hell, it’s even been shown that ‘physical addiction’ for drugs is largely environmental. This is hardly surprising — just talk to an addict about why they use — but even among rats, they stop hitting the lever once they have a proper environment and social companionship.

    That’s not exactly true. Scientists have identified a reward system in the brain that involves dopamine. Every physically addictive drug causes an increases in the level of dopamine in this system. (directly or indirectly). This system is also active when we eat and other pleasurable activities. They have done experiments on rats where subjects will press a lever for electrical stimulation of this system It is true that environmental cues can lead to increased desire for a drug and relapse, but these cues only elicit behavior because of the reinforcing properties of the drug. Other than that part I agree with everything you have said.

  50. John Hartz says:

    Richard: We al need to keep in mind that most climate scientists are employed by an instittuion whcih most likely has rules or guidelines about speaking publicly about the results of their work. It’s also important to note that public speaking is not a strong suit of many scientists. In my opinion, there are more than enoough prominent climate scientists speaking publicly. They may however be purposely tempering their concerns in order to not alarm the public and create a sense of impending doom. That seems to me to be the issue Orseke is attempting to address.

  51. Everett F Sargent says:

    I would very kindly suggest that grossly overstating the climate change case, when the actual (near to intermediate) future impacts may turn out to be significantly lower, would result in an Operation Backfire affect.

    Oreskes states:

    “We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1 degree Celsius.”

    I would need to see a list of past-up-through-yesterday of known “dangerous effects worldwide” related directly to climate change (at the p = 1 level since these are purportedly known) and not related to general issues of human pollution (CO2 and Arctic Sea Ice don’t count, as these are not “now” “dangerous effects worldwide” they will lead to “future” “dangerous effects worldwide”).

    IMHO, all climate scientists need to do is get it somewhat close to correct. I think that that is currently what climate scientists are doing.

  52. mikkel says:

    Vinny: a lot of them. After all, it’s estimated that only about 5% of people are intrinsically driven and have self actualization as their primary thought process. Maslow said that “normal” shouldn’t mean “most common” since the most common is psychopathological.

    And a lot did it for the sense of belonging. Smoking has decreased more because it became unsexy vs. rational worry about long term consequences. Interesting, increasing smoking among women was one of the first instances of modern consumerist propaganda, executed by Edward Bernays (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torches_of_Freedom).

    Now of course I’m not saying that nicotine addiction isn’t real, merely that it’s one factor of many that influences success of quitting. I had a colleague who successfully quit smoking and handled withdrawal OK, but then took it back up because he missed the companionship during his smoke breaks. My grandmother is very active in AA, and says that losing the camaraderie you have with other addicts is the worst part of quitting for most people; that and the constant temptation to dull your pain and anxiety as escape from the world.

    As far as climate change/environmental issues, here is an article by a psychologist who has done work in the area.

    The whole thing is great, but to me this is the main takeaway:

    .The way people bring up their children, decorate their homes or take holidays are deeply personal but they are also culturally framed and constructed. The feeling that one is ‘a good mother’ is embedded in a myriad of assumptions that are culturally and socially validated, but that might be deleterious to the environment…When these usual ways of doing things are questioned, or demands for change are made, people feel that their identity is under threat. More precisely, they feel that they’re being faced with an impossible conflict. It might feel like too much to be both a good mother and a responsible environmental citizen…

    Apathy is rarely what it seems. Listening to people’s stories soon uncovers the underlying reality of complex emotions and un-addressed difficulties. Research conducted by the psychologist Renee Lertzman among the residents of Green Bay in the Great Lakes region in Wisconsin, an area that has slowly been depleted through development and farming, found that beneath a mask of disengagement from environmental issues, local people were actually distressed by the area’s environmental decline. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, rather they cared too much. They remained attached to landscapes from the past that were now lost, damaged or polluted, and they felt helpless as a result. Psychoanalysis would conclude that when loss remains un-mourned and grief unarticulated, the reparative impulses cannot be mobilised and people are unlikely to act.

    She then goes on to talk about explicit examples of people admitting that they do mindless consumerism not because they enjoy it, but as an addictive palliative against their environmental anxiety.

  53. John Hartz says:

    Orsekes’ Op-ed causes me to wonder whether or not climate scientists hold anything thing back when they discuss their work with their immediate families.

  54. John Hartz says:

    mikkel: Thank you for your excellent post and the link to Randall’s article.

  55. Eli Rabett says:

    IEH Oreskes and ATTP were stating something much more interesting which Eli will formulate as the law of statistical usefulness, e.g. the more you know about something the less statistics you need to understand it and the more likely that any statistical uncertainty in a measurement is caused by the experimental design rather than the scientific understanding.

  56. mikkel says:

    Joseph, I think my point wasn’t quite clear. Really what is reinforcing is the dopamine response, which can also be elicited with all sorts of non-drug addictions: sex, food, shopping, gambling, risk taking and even self injury. This is why a lot of addicts talk about having an “addictive personality” wherein they remain susceptible to all sorts of temptations. I’m arguing that addiction itself (of anything) is often self medication and that healthy environments greatly reduce the need for this.

    The study I was referring to is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park which as far as I’m aware, has been replicated with other drugs as well.

  57. austrartsua says:

    The first paragraph of her article says climate change is happening faster then expected. How can she say that with a straight face? There has Been no warming for 15 odd years. Global warming simply isn’t happening at all. Perhaps she is referring to something other then surface temps?

  58. mikkel says:

    Thanks John, Randall’s article really is fantastic, isn’t it.

    I also highly recommend “Don’t Even Think About It” by George Marshall. While it focuses on Climate Change, it is equally applicable to any social shift. It’s not only insightful but hilarious in many places.

  59. MikeH says:

    @Everett F Sargent
    “Oreskes states: “We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1 degree Celsius.”

    One example.

    The collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun and is almost certainly unstoppable. At least 3 metres of sea level rise that will effect future generations for a few centuries. By effect, I mean large parts of the human population farming low lying deltas and living in coastal cities will have to evacuate, not withstanding Tol’s claims re sea walls on the previous thread.

    It is very easy to get inured to these announcements – but you probably need to think a little more of the consequences. And you would need to be a bit dozy if you were not concerned that the WAIS is simply the beginning. The Totten Glacier is also under threat. And as Oreskes notes, this is happening with warming < 1C.

    Is this not dramatic enough? What do you expect – fireworks and a light show?

    @austrartsua I gather you are a poe. You are not a very good one though.

  60. Joseph says:

    The study I was referring to is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rat_Park which as far as I’m aware, has been replicated with other drugs as well.

    I am a smoker and believe me there is more to addiction than environment and personal circumstances. From the Wiki article and based my own knowledge the view put forward in that paper is a minority in the related literature. I guess we should agree to disagree since we are getting way off topic.

  61. John Hartz says:

    austrartsua: Your denier meme is an obsolete pile of pseudo-science poppycock!

    2014 may set a new temperature record. So can we please stop claiming global warming has “stopped”? by Chris Mooney, Wonkblog, Washington Post, Jan 6, 2014

  62. austrartsua says:

    @johnhartz it doesn’t take a genius to understand what a hiatus is. Let me explain it to you. Draw a line on a Cartesian plane connecting the origin with the point (1,1). Now draw a line from the point (1,1) to (2,2). For any value of x between 1 and 2 the corresponding y value is maximum however there is no increase. Can you understand this? What matters is not whether 2014 is the hottest year on record but how much hotter it is. What is the change in temp. What is the change.

    I am amazed that people keep making this argument. They are either incredibly dumb or practicing Orwellian double think.

  63. austrartsua says:

    Correction: second point should be (1,2).

    I am struggling with typing on my smart phone

  64. John Hartz says:

    austrartsua: Please look at the graph that Chris Mooney embedded in his post. Where’s the bloody hiatus?

  65. MikeH says:

    @austrartsua It may not take a genius to to understand what a “hiatus” is but it appears to require someone smarter than you.

    Your comment (as John noted) claimed that AGW had stopped. No mention of a hiatus here.
    “There has Been no warming for 15 odd years. Global warming simply isn’t happening at all.”

    And FWIW.
    Hadcrut4 Trend: 0.089 ±0.118 °C/decade (2σ) since 1999
    Hadcrut4 Trend: 0.059 ±0.113 °C/decade (2σ) since 1998

    Perhaps you guessed wrong – like to try again? From occasionally reading tweets from the twitter climate trolls, I believe Steven Goddard gets your required result by using RSS and choosing a specific start and end month.

    Woo hoo – are we having fun yet? Playing whac-a-mole with a hardcore climate numpty at ATTP’s blog. 🙂

  66. austrartra,

    There has Been no warming for 15 odd years.

    The above statement is clearly wrong. The best you could say is that if you carefully select your dataset and carefully select your start and end point you can get a trend that is zero (or close to zero). Of course, if you consider all datasets, and don’t cherry-pick your time interval, you would never conclude that there’s been no warming.

  67. Mikkel,

    I find the agreement that a Bayesian is analogous to the scientific process to be amusing because I’ve almost never seen Bayesian models used in any hard science.

    Well, Bayesian statistics is becoming more and more common these days.

    In that context, I believe the scientific community certainly does have an obligation to communicate its findings and to construct its hypotheses in ways that are most useful for long term decision making by outsiders. This means formalizing their work in context of risk models.

    I don’t know that I quite agree with this. I think we do have to keep separate the scientific process of discovery and the ability to make predictions that are societally/policy relevant. For example, we could decide to directly fund an organisation that would aim to make robust decadal predictions. However, I still think you need to fund people who simple study our climate. What they learn can feed into the developing of models that present directly societally/policy relevant information, but I don’t think they need to be thinking explicitly about this themselves.

  68. Oreskes claims that scientists are not telling what they know or at least they are not telling what they should know, when they weigh properly evidence available to them both from theoretical understanding and from observations.

    I do not accept that she knows that to be the case or that she has proper evidence for knowing that to be the case.

  69. jsam says:

    Oreskes claims that scientists are not telling what they know or at least they are not telling what they should know, when they weigh properly evidence available to them both from theoretical understanding and from observations.

    I do accept that she knows that to be the case and that she has proper evidence for knowing that to be the case.

    Fair and balance.

  70. mikkel says:

    ATTP: agreed. But don’t you think it is wise to use our limited time and resources to direct basic physical science research towards areas that are still the known unknowns? For instance, as far as policy is concerned, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot whether transient climate sensitivity is 2C or 3C, at least compared to our projected emissions. However Earth system sensitivity is somewhere between 2.5C and 6.5C. This range is quite a big deal considering that a target of 2C @ 3C TCS could be 4C+ ESS, which is far beyond safe warming by any stretch.

    Similarly, 2100 sea level rise is projected at 2-3 ft by IPCC, but upwards of 15+ ft by Hansen, who has generally been proven correct and seems supported by paleoclimate data. This is the difference between a big nuisance and having to abandon countless cities.

    In general, abrupt climate change potential seems under researched and therefore the vacuum is being filled by…strong voices, we’ll say.

    I’m a big fan of the Kuhn model of science and understand it’s natural that ‘normal science’ moves to increasing nail down all details, but it seems more efficient to say ‘good enough’ at some point and move on to the next section. A body synthesizing that and helping to direct research could be quite helpful; after all the IPCC spent 20 years getting from 85% likely AGW to 95%+ likely AGW, so they’re a bit tapped out on that mission.

  71. Stating my position somewhat differently.

    Scientists are free to present their views both as scientists representing science and as citizens. When they present their views they should in some way indicate, which is the case.

    When a scientist presents views as scientist she should
    – stick to issues she believes to have good understanding either as own expertize or by being able to personally judge knowledge accrued by other scientists
    – present a balanced view of what she believes to be true

    Each scientist should do that judgement herself taking into account what she knows about views of other scientists.

    Each scientist is likely to reach somewhat different conclusions at least on some details.

    What Oreskes is claiming is that scientists as a whole are not doing that correctly. It’s probably true that what scientists as a whole are telling is not exactly what Oreskes believes to be a correctly balanced view, but a have not seen any evidence that they are not telling, in general, what they believe themselves to be a balanced view.

    I do not accept that Oreskes is right in accusing scientists of strong erroneous bias, when the only evidence she shows is that scientists present often views that deviate from what she prefers.

  72. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    I do not accept… …that she has proper evidence for knowing that to be the case

    You want the evidence?

    You can’t handle the evidence!

    http://isthishowyoufeel.weebly.com/this-is-how-scientists-feel.html

    🙂

  73. Mikkel,

    But don’t you think it is wise to use our limited time and resources to direct basic physical science research towards areas that are still the known unknowns?

    Sure, but that wasn’t quite what I interpreted you as saying. I thought you were referring to focusing more on things like regional or decadal forecasts. I agree that we could certainly probe these areas more.

    Pekka,

    I do not accept that Oreskes is right in accusing scientists of strong erroneous bias, when the only evidence she shows is that scientists present often views that deviate from what she prefers.

    I’m not sure we’re interpreting the article in the same way, as that isn’t quite what I interpreted Oreskes as saying. My interpretation was simply that if you are discussing risks associated with climate science you could justifiably discuss things which you are less confident will actually happen, if you think the risks associated with it are worth considering. I didn’t think she was suggesting that they were erroneous in their bias, simply that – in some cases – they were being too prescriptive in what they were willing to say.

  74. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    On a more serious tone, there has long been discussion that scientists are caught in a catch-22 on communication, famously recognised by Stephen Schneider.

    If the language and emotionless tone of science is used, the message is not heard by a lay audience.

    If, on the other hand, a communication style more akin to politics or advertising is used, scientists are accused of politicising their message, or overstating their conclusions.

    So, there is cognitive dissonance. If the man on the Calpham omnibus hears

    “For the major crops (wheat, rice, and maize) in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late-20th-century levels, although individual locations may benefit (medium confidence).”(1)

    he will NOT think the scientist means

    (2)

    Refs
    (1) WG2 SPM
    (2) Dr Jim Salinger, University of Auckland. Full quote

    “Having been on this journey now into my fifth decade it has been fascinating to see it develop from an academic study to be highly politicised. Leaders and politicians of countries ‘don’t get it’. It is now time for all of those who care to speak up and out to make a difference so that we change our ways for the future and those that can not yet speak

    I am always hopeful – but 4 to 5 degrees Celsius of change will be a challenge to survive

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/kellyoakes/how-do-scientists-actually-feel-about-climate-change?

  75. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    any chance you can get the JPG in the previous to display inline? Don’t know why it didn’t

  76. aTTP,

    It’s correct that things that are not certain at the level of, say, 95% may be very likely. It’s surely wrong to tell that something is not likely even, when such a threshold has not been reached. This is, however, fully recognized in climate science as we can see by reading IPCC reports. The uncertainty classification of IPCC starts from “more likely than not”. It’s also fully recognized that likelihoods of much less than 50% are also a concern, when the potential damage is very large.

    At the same time it must be remembered that including possibilities that do not have a high certainty brings unavoidably errors of the first type, i.e. statements that turn out to be false.

    Different types of extreme events are a prime example of the difficulties. The great variety of the ways, times and places, where they may occur guarantee that some extreme events increase somewhere over any time span. To make meaningful statements on increase in such events unbiased statistical measures are needed – and here statistics is really the tool of science. It has turned out that the outcome of such exercises is largely indecisive. People preparing the SREX report reached that conclusion. Some classes of extreme events have increased, but the overall outcome is not clear. I do think that a scientist that interprets the outcome like that must tell that, and not the opposite. No theoretical argument provides such valid prior knowledge that would change the conclusion as far as I can see. (Taken separately it’s essentially clear that higher average temperatures lead also to higher extreme temperatures.)

    My claim is that on the average scientists do not give biased picture of the situation, but tell what their knowledge makes correct and balanced. Some scientists err in one direction, others in the other direction, but I do not see reason to believe either the skeptics who insists on exaggeration of risks or Oreskes who tells that they belittle the risks would be correct for the overall picture.

  77. mikkel says:

    Pekka, the problem with your statement is that scientists are constitutionally biased towards being extremely conservative. A colleague of mine (medical researcher) used to talk about how he once had constant arguments with his wife (a biomedical engineer focused on business) because she found him too indecisive and he found her too rash. The way he put it, to him ‘certain’ meant a p < 0.05 and to her, 'certain' meant p < 0.5, due to the differences between science and the business world. They agreed to resolve it by consciously aiming for p < 0.25 and the friction greatly diminished. In this case, 'balance' meant taking his audience into account.

    The 'balanced' view of consequences and therefore risks of climate change circa the year 2000 predicted impacts in weather variability, ice concentration and ecosystem distress that we are seeing now but weren't supposed to appear for another 20-60 years. This is in part due to systemic bias about being 'balanced' by downplaying the role of intuitive but not proven complex interactions.

    On the other hand, fossil fuel and other status quo interests are taking advantage of cognitive bias and rhetorical weakness on the part of the scientific community in order to win the argument through inertia (refer to George Marshall's book "Don't Even Think About It" for examples and evidence).

    Therefore, I strongly support Oreskes right to criticize the mindset, because ultimately this issue affects every human on earth. It is fundamentally undemocratic and unrealistic to insist that scientists stick to one level of balance arbitrarily chosen within the community, when the majority of the world may have completely different perceptions. After all, trillions have been spent on the GWOT justified by the One Percent Doctrine.

  78. To me it’s essential that what differentiates science from opinions is that it’s based on truth. If we wish to maintain trust in the science in the long term we must overemphasize that.

    I see it as fully possible, and actually also effective in practice to present science and own opinions basically as follows:

    1) First tell about science. Discuss uncertainties and tell where other scientists have presented different conclusions.

    2) Then tell explicitly that now you tell, what you have personally concluded going beyond what you can justify objectively using scientific methods, but implying in some suitable way that you have good subjective reasons to believe as you do. What the suitable way is varies, but it’s essential that you are very open on the nature of your reasoning.

    I have in various connections used that approach, and received very positive comments from that.

  79. Rachel M says:

    VTG,

    The image URL needs to be on a line by itself. The (2) you had on the same line was preventing the image from displaying there so I just shifted that onto the next line.

  80. Pekka,

    To me it’s essential that what differentiates science from opinions is that it’s based on truth. If we wish to maintain trust in the science in the long term we must overemphasize that.

    Partly I think we’re talking at cross purposes and partly I think you’re making Naomi Oreskes’ argument for her. I agree that the IPCC present a very balanced view of our current scientific understanding. I don’t even think that Naomi Oreskes would disagree. As I understand her argument, she is trying to differentiate how one might communicate our scientific understanding and how one might communicate the risks associated with that scientific understanding. The problem is that if you’re unwilling to make a strong statement about the science until you’re sufficiently confident, then that potentially means that you’re unwilling to make strong statements about the risks. You may argue that they’re the same thing, but I’m not convinced that they are. The stage at which we feel that we have enough knowledge to take action might be different to the stage at which a scientist may be willing to state, with certainty, that they now understand a particular system.

    In a sense you see this already. You mentioned in an earlier comment about the confidence descriptors in the IPCC document. Yes, they’re very good and they probably represent our understanding well. However, I’ve seen people use them to claim we know nothing (or that nothing is or will happen) rather than we’re not certain.

  81. I think that some might find some of the following expressions of views interesting:

    “Odds Are, It’s Wrong”
    https://www.sciencenews.org/article/odds-are-its-wrong

    “The Odds, Continually Updated”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/30/science/the-odds-continually-updated.html?_r=0

    “Give p a chance: significance testing is misunderstood”
    http://theconversation.com/give-p-a-chance-significance-testing-is-misunderstood-20207
    “Let’s Abandon Significance Tests”
    http://ecodevoevo.blogspot.com/2013/05/lets-abandon-significance-tests.html

    Also, let’s recall that delicious media firestorm back in the early 1990s, in which even a number of professional mathematicians – outside the specialty of probability theory – got the answer wrong even though this problem is one of an entire category of such problems easily solved via a direct calculation using Bayes’ Theorem and is well known among these specialists.

    “Behind Monty Hall’s Doors: Puzzle, Debate and Answer?”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/07/21/us/behind-monty-hall-s-doors-puzzle-debate-and-answer.html
    Quote: “An earlier version, the Three Prisoner Problem, was analyzed in 1959 by Martin Gardner in the journal Scientific American. He called it “a wonderfully confusing little problem” and presciently noted that “in no other branch of mathematics is it so easy for experts to blunder as in probability theory.””

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem#Vos_Savant_and_the_media_furor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Hall_problem#Direct_calculation
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem

    Let’s take as given by statements such as Gardner that probability theory and statistics is the most difficult general area of mathematics for even the average professional mathematician. So, since climate science is one of those sciences that are very heavily based on probability theory and statistics, I think maybe we have one answer as to why the average denier of mainstream climate science is possibly hopelessly clueless and/or deceived (including via the blind leading the blind underneath the umbrella of ideology).

  82. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “Naomi Orekes argues an interesting case, particularly in respect of the arbitrariness of the 95% confidence limit. ”

    This isn’t anything particularly new, Fisher wrote ““it is a common practice to judge a result significant, if it is of such magnitude that it would have been produced by chance not more frequently than once in twenty trials. This is an arbitrary, but convenient, level of significance for the practical investigator.” However he later also recommended that recommended th
    at fixed significance levels were too restrictive and argued that a researcher’s significance level would depend on circumstances. The arbitrariness ought to be well understood by statisticians, if not by practicing scientists.

    Infopath lack of exercise is not on Lucifer’s list, but cardiovascular disease is. However my main reason for wanting to do some exercise is to improve my speed and endurance when running between the wickets. ;o)

    Mikkel wrote “However, to me, these things are not only not sacrifices, but the best use of time and money that I can imagine.”

    This is essentially the point I was making, we agree that these things are sacrifices, which is why most people don’t do them. The reason that some people do make them is because they are more rational in their discounting. We are all performing cost-benefit analyses, the difference is in the way we react to immediate and deferred benefits and losses. It isn’t really a matter of advantages and disadvantages, in decision theory it is common to discuss these as losses and an advantage is just a negative loss. We are evolutionarily predisposed to eating food when it is available, it is part of our hunter-gatherer past, so it isn’t really fair to call it an addiction. There is a reason why we are like that, it is just that the reason no longer applies to the world we live in, but our hard-wired behaviour is not so easily changed.

    “The way he put it, to him ‘certain’ meant a p < 0.05 and to her, 'certain' meant p < 0.5, due to the differences between science and the business world. "

    I would venture to suggest that she didn't understand what a p-value meant, and he probably doesn't either. A p-value of 0.5 means that IF the result were obtained by random chance, then the observed effect size was about what you would expect to see (i.e. the median). I definitely does not mean "as likely to be due random chance as not". Nobody should be certain of anything on the basis of a p-value of 0.05, and definitely not 0.25!

  83. John Hartz says:

    Lest anyone forget…Orsekes’ article is by definition an Op-ed, i.e., an Opinion Editorial.

  84. Willard says:

    > To me it’s essential that what differentiates science from opinions is that it’s based on truth.

    This channels an old proem:

    The Proem opens with Parmenides representing himself as borne on a chariot and attended by the Sunmaidens who have quitted the Halls of Night to guide him on his journey. They pass along the highway till they come to the Gate of Night and Day, which is locked and barred. The key is in the keeping of Dike (Right), the Avenger, who is persuaded to unlock it by the Sunmaidens. They pass in through the gate and are now, of course, in the realms of Day. The goal of the journey is the palace of a goddess who welcomes Parmenides and instructs him in the two ways, that of Truth and the deceptive way of Belief, in which is no truth at all. All this is described without inspiration and in a purely conventional manner, so it must be interpreted by the canons of the apocalyptic style. It is clearly meant to indicate that Parmenides had been converted, that he had passed from error (night) to truth (day), and the Two Ways must represent his former error and the truth which is now revealed to him.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/parmenid/

    I don’t think science is based on truth, as this begs the questions we can scientifically ask. I’d rather say that science is one of the best tools we have in our pursuit of truth. For everything else related to climate, ClimateBall ™ ought to be enough.

  85. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Speaking of balance, is it true that your next post will be Over Confident ?

  86. aTTP,

    I agree that people use uncertainty arguments erroneously, but my view is that the problem cannot be remedied by stating or implying that the uncertainties are not that large, because that approach may backfire. I see many people, including Naomi Oraskes taking the approach of claiming that the uncertainties are smaller than they really ares as a substitute for getting people to understand, what uncertainties really mean. (It’s well known that risks are very difficult to understand.)

    I’m afraid that the approach fails, because it offers the opponents the change of pointing out, how the message does not present uncertainties correctly.

  87. Pekka,

    but my view is that the problem cannot be remedied by stating or implying that the uncertainties are not that large, because that approach may backfire.

    I agree, but I don’t think that is what is being suggested.

    Naomi Oraskes taking the approach of claiming that the uncertainties are smaller than they really ares as a substitute for getting people to understand, what uncertainties really mean.

    Well, I’m not sure this is what she is arguing. I think it is more nuanced than that. Also, I think many social scientists would suggest that you’re falling into the Deficit model trap “if only we explained uncertainty better, everyone would understand”. It’s not clear that this is true.

  88. aTTP,

    Take first the title of the Op-ed: “Playing Dumb on Climate Change”. To me the message is very clear – and I disagree on it.

  89. Pekka,

    Take first the title of the Op-ed: “Playing Dumb on Climate Change”. To me the message is very clear – and I disagree on it.

    Well, that’s fair enough. We don’t have to all agree all of the time 🙂

  90. The article to the quote:

    Oreskes states: “We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1 degree Celsius.”

    Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama?

  91. John Hartz says:

    Pekka: The headline of Orsekes Op-ed may or may not have been written by her. Either way, headlines are designed to grab your attention and entice you to read the text.

  92. Michael Lloyd says:

    Mikkel has made a couple of references two the book: Don’t Even Think About It, by George Marshall.

    Here is a review of that book, http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-01-05/review-don-t-even-think-about-it-by-george-marshall

    and an excerpt of that review:

    “Marshall says he’s seen a disconnect when it comes to public perceptions about the issue. He’s noticed that many people will agree it’s a serious threat when asked, but won’t mention it when prompted for a list of world crises. Another telling example of this disconnect is the way the Cato and Heartland institutes invest heavily in campaigns to deny climate change while also embracing geo-engineering as a solution to this allegedly nonexistent problem. For Marshall, the key to understanding such contradictions lies in a cognitive psychology phenomenon known as framing. Framing describes how we apply preexisting schemas of interpretation—or “frames” composed of our values, life experiences and social cues—to new information we encounter. This involuntary process gives us selective snapshots of phenomena, which we compartmentalize in ways that allow for much contradiction and dissonance.

    At work in the framing process are innate biases that, in Marshall’s words, “distort rational decision-making.” We form and shape our mental frames using “confirmation bias,” the habit of cherry-picking evidence that supports our previous beliefs, knowledge and attitudes. When presented with a new idea, we modify it to fit into one of the frames thus created, a process known as “biased assimilation.” These two terms vary slightly in meaning, but for ease of reading Marshal calls them both confirmation bias.

    What further compounds matters is that climate change lends itself especially well to confirmation bias because it’s multivalent, or susceptible to multiple meanings and interpretations. It lacks qualities we need in order to neatly categorize things, such as a clear beginning and end, definite deadlines for action and a specific geographic location. Moreover, it’s impossible to identify a single cause, solution, enemy or physical entity to boycott or blockade. Faced with these cognitive obstacles, we have no choice but to fill in the voids with material from our own frames. This resistance to straightforward interpretation has caused climate change to be labeled a “perfect problem” by many in the psychology profession. “You almost couldn’t design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology,” Marshall quotes one expert as saying.”

    and Marshall’s suggestions:

    “And that brings us to one of this book’s main takeaway points: the importance of building trust with those still unconvinced about climate change. Since trust is essential to effective communications, Marshall asks climate communicators to focus on values shared by all people, regardless of political, cultural or religious differences, and to downplay the “eco-stuff.” He points to recent studies suggesting that respect for authority, reducing societal dysfunction, personal responsibility, avoiding intergenerational debt and loyalty to one’s community and nation could all be effective appeals for climate communicators. To be sure, climate change speaks as powerfully to these concerns as it does to the plight of dying polar bears. Its status as an environmental cause has alienated groups, notably right-wingers and religious conservatives, whose cooperation is crucial to any successful mitigation.

    The author also wants climate experts to step out of their comfort zone as researchers and become passionate communicators and storytellers as well. In a chapter subtitled “Why Climate Science Does Not Move People,” he explains how the mind is wired to believe information presented in an engaging, narratively satisfying way—one appealing directly to the “emotional brain,” to use his term—over information presented unengagingly, even when the latter is accurate. Climate deniers certainly are no strangers to the importance of storytelling and emotional involvement, and Marshall encourages the adoption of some of their strategies, save for the deception. He cites an article by climatologists Andrew Dessler and John Abraham calling on their colleagues to emphasize “personal stories” in talking about their work. These stories, they argue, will help make climate scientists more relatable, and thus more trustworthy, to the public by answering questions like: “Why did they get into science? What are the things that concern them about the world? Why are they personally worried about climate change?”

    Food for thought?

  93. Willard says:

    > To me the message is very clear – and I disagree on it.

    Of course, Pekka. You might be the ClimateBall ™ player who plays dumb the best.

  94. John Hartz says:

    Related to the OP and possibly deserving a post of its own:

    “Michael Mann writes that the strategy ‘is similar to what happens when a group of lions on the Serengeti seek out a vulnerable individual zebra at the edge of a herd.”

    Climate Deniers Employ Predatory Tactics in Fight Against Facts: Scientist by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams, Jan 6, 2015

  95. Joseph says:

    So if a climate scientist says that if we continue BAU emissions path this century we will see more flooding heat waves, droughts in certain regions of the world, he would be showing over-confidence. But if the scientist says that if we continue BAU emissions path this century we may see more of these events, he would not be showing over-confidence. Do I have that right? What if the scientist said we would likely see more of these events? Would that be seen as being over-confident?

  96. verytallguy says:

    Joseph,

    what if the scientist says

    or

    What then?

    What if things go really pear shaped and the temperature rise this century approaches the IPCC upper bound of 7.8C?

    Underconfident yet?

  97. mt says:

    “If a statistical analysis suggests that a model is consistent with observations, but you know that the model violates one of the fundamental laws of physics, you would reject that model despite the statistical analysis. ” Excellent point.

    Still reading… But I wanted to thank you for that immediately. It’s obvious when you think about it but I’ve not heard it said. And it does elucidate the issue nicely.

  98. Joseph says:

    OIlman, from my own my own limited understanding of what the science tells us, I am confident that we need to act even if the face of some uncertainty because the risks are there. I am just trying to figure out what would be considered an exaggeration of the science through my examples.

  99. mt says:

    Lucifer’s argument seems to imply that war is not worth worrying about, because even in war, “war” is not the cause of death – it is generally something like projectile damage, blunt trauma, or disease.

    It doesn’t seem serious.

  100. MT,

    But I wanted to thank you for that immediately.

    Thanks.

    It doesn’t seem serious.

    No, it doesn’t really.

  101. Joseph,

    Do I have that right? What if the scientist said we would likely see more of these events? Would that be seen as being over-confident?

    I think it’s all a bit subtler than that. I think this is all related to other suggestions that climate scientists get more passionate/emotional when talking publicly (and that they shouldn’t lead with uncertainty). Even if they can’t state with certainty what will actually happen, they can discuss the consequences if it does happen and, given that they are also inhabitant of this planet, they should feel entitled to do so if they want to. Of course, it’s not the responsibility of climate scientists to speak out, but we should support those who choose to do so and should recognise that the value judgements that are made when discussing the consequences of climate change with the public may be different to those that a scientist may use when discussing scientific results in papers and at conferences.

  102. John Hartz says:

    Mt: I am pretty darned confident* that Lucifer is just another drive-by, run-of-the-mill, climate denier drone.

    *95%

  103. mikkel says:

    Michael: George also talks about how rational messaging and decision making have almost no effect on general behavior. He jokes that the greatest evidence is that psychologists have nailed this down for years and yet scientists still insist on trying to change behavior through rationality.

    dikranmarsupial: to be fair, my colleague was talking about personal decisions, like whether it seemed like their children were doing well in school. His wife would often want to change circumstances and he would say they needed to wait because it wasn’t clear there was an issue. (You could get into a Bayesian vs frequentist thing here but he didn’t know Bayesian thought processes). The fact that they argued about the level of certainty in a real world thing that can’t be run multiple times was the gist of my point.

    ATTP: Do you believe that individual scientists have a duty based on an implied social contract? Does science as a field? Meaning, since most research is funded by public grants, society as a whole is the investor and therefore there is the responsibility to “open the books” so to speak, with two-sided engagement about how to frame results.

  104. Mikkel,

    Do you believe that individual scientists have a duty based on an implied social contract? Does science as a field?

    Formally, no. They’re providing extensive evidence and they’re providing it in a way that is easy enough to understand. Formally, in my view, they have done what we expect of them and if society and our policy makers choose to ignore them, that’s not their fault.

  105. dikranmarsupial says:

    mikkel actually, your friends position only really makes any sense if he is adopting a Bayesian thought process, so perhaps he does understand Bayesian thought processes even if not the terminology etc. The reason people have problems with frequentist hypothesis testing is that our intuitive understanding of probability is subjectivist Bayesian, so we have a tendency to interpret frequentist statements as if they were Bayesian ones. Both frameworks are useful, provided you don’t unintentionally mix them.

  106. snarkrates says:

    Ultimately, the problem here is that science is being expected to do a job for which it was never intended–risk mitigation. The only roles of science in risk mitigation are to establish the credibility of the threat and to define the mechanism by which the threat is realized sufficiently that mitigation strategies can be developed. Then it is over to the risk professionals–engineers, government officials, economists, politicians, etc. Science has fulfilled its purpose. It is the politicians (and economists and journalists as well) who have failed to muster the courage to deal with the threats.

    We know the threat. We know what we have to do to address it. What is lacking among the “deciders” is the courage to decide.

  107. mikkel says:

    ATTP: fair enough, but if you think it’s easy enough to understand I would strongly suggest reading research on psychology of perception and probability. The general take away is that only a couple of percent of the population is able to think probabilistically on a formal level (even the majority of professional engineers fail — also, doctors and alarmingly leads to massive over intervention) and this percent has almost no representation in government or business.

    I once had a rather prominent foreign policy person try to rebut my skepticism of shield defense by saying even if there was only a 10% chance of interception, they only needed to build 10 and have a 100% chance.

    On the other hand, people do a better job of intuitive probability and effects, which is a sound argument for getting rid of numbers and instead describing outcomes in plain language. Even there, however, behavior is dominated by non-rational heuristics and cognitive short cuts anchored to past experience.

    With this is mind, climate change research might be clear to those in the community, but to others it might as well be Martian. I’d venture to guess that if it was really put to the test, we would find that giving the “prospectus” on climate change to the general public would fail to meet the legal definition of informed consent and certainly they would fail to meet the legal definition of sophisticated (the requirement to be able to make financial decisions without direct professional opinion).

    The sad truth is that the standards that science tends to rely on are wholly different than any other risk or evidence based field: medicine, business, law, mechanical repair, etc. Since politics and business are dominated by people from these fields, they interpret things within their framework and that sets policy response. I understand the desire of many to see science as sacrosanct but as a scientific person I feel I have both a professional and moral duty to strive for communication that reflects my opinion transposed onto the standards of the audience. Even then, I’m constantly criticized for being obstinate about saying “that’s uncertain” or “that’s against the laws of physical reality” but at least feel there is genuine understanding at a level that gives consent.

    But even then, people don’t actually start acting scientifically. Instead they trust me to carry out aims they agree with and give me the responsibility and power to execute them. I think this is the real crux of the issue — there will be no policy change unless inherently scientific people are given proportional social responsibility power to affect it. Guidance and opinion is not enough, it will have to be direct leadership. This is because most organizations are extremely hierarchical and decisions aren’t made, they’re delegated. There is an obvious visceral fear that exists among scientists about actual leadership and even prominent scientists like Hansen repeatedly talk about concern of social ineptness. Until the community accepts this and either starts training/nominating representatives or providing explicit preference to scientific leaders (and removing support to those that aren’t) then I fear the frustration will continue indefinitely.

  108. mikkel says:

    dikranmarsupial: Exactly. I was very pleased to see ATTP and MT talk about how the scientific is inherently Bayesian, since that’s been my drum for as long as I can remember. The “formal” (95%+ frequentist) vs “intuitive” (inherently Bayesian) gap I refer to above might be explained partially by your point.

    It is nice to hear that more work is being done in an explicit Bayesian context, particularly because it changes the nature of hypothesis testing and experimental set up. Most of the time, I would get called in to evaluate data and after listening to what they did and what they wanted to know, I had to break the news that they had to completely start over because the experiment couldn’t even answer the hypothesis with statistical rigor.

  109. Lucifer says:

    Tobis:

    If you are implying that warming indirectly causes death,
    I invite you to rectify that belief with the seasonal variation.
    More people die ( from all causes ) during the cold season, and
    Fewer people die ( from all causes ) during the warm season:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2761439/?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_SingleItemSupl.Pubmed_DiscoveryDbLinks&ordinalpos=1&tool=pubmed

    It would appear that the opposite is true.

  110. Eli Rabett says:

    That was then this is now

  111. jsam says:

    Lucifer – Thank you for your paper entitled “Seasonality of mortality: the September phenomenon in Mediterranean countries” – and your implied extrapolation to the whole planet and the other 11 months.

  112. MikeH says:

    Most winter deaths are due to relative not absolute cold i.e. very few people die of hypothermia, they tend to die of cardiovascular and respiratory disease which can be exacerbated by cold.

    Increasing global temperatures are unlikely to reduce cold related deaths by much whereas we can be certain that the increased frequency of heatwaves will lead to an increase in summer deaths.

    “Winter mortality in a warming climate: a reassessment”
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.211/abstract

    http://theconversation.com/climate-council-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-and-more-frequent-23253

  113. Joshua says:

    It’s interesting how so many “skeptic” present the same flawed arguments in so many different places.

    It’s almost as if they’re gullible more than skeptical.

  114. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: Or they are just automated spammers.

  115. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Kudos for posting this OP. It has percipitated an excellent discussion by some very knowledgable and articulate commenters.

  116. Eli Rabett says:

    To continue beating my drum. You cannot draw meaningful conclusions from the statistical behavior of a single parameter in a coupled system.

    Even in 1988, Hansen’s argument was more sophisticated, viz: using physical constraints the outputs of the theory follow observation of a number of parameters including global temperature. Since we are confident of the theoretical inputs, and reasonably confident of the drivers, the forcings, and the observables over multiple time scales, the three legs of the theory support each other.As Eli was saying we are looking at this the wrong way. In principle a thousand monkeys stumbling about randomly could reproduce the “observed” global temperature series. It can also be reproduced using a GCM and a set of “reasonable” forcings.

    So the question is which is more likely. The random walk explanation has no support, it just exists. OTOH, we can point to a cooling stratosphere, observed emissions from various parts of the atmosphere, the Arctic warming more than the tropics, and more predictions from the GCMs. We can ask the question what is the probability of a random walk in the temperature, a random walk leading to a cooling stratosphere, a random walk leading to strong warming in the Arctic and more.

    Eli submits the answer to that is fat chance. It is only by isolating the global temperature series that you get this discussion. It’s spinich.

  117. Willard says:

    Identifying people doesn’t suffice, John Harz. One needs to identify what is being said. Take this:

    If you are implying that warming indirectly causes death, … More people die … during the cold season, and fewer people die … during the warm season.

    Whoever tells you this, you can readily see the equivocation between “warm” and “warming,” among other things. After all these years, you should be able to detect these booby traps and defuse them without having to play another round of identity politics.

    In any case, consider that this might not be the best of days to do so:

    The only effective response to this manipulative strategy (as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani tried to tell the Iraqi Shiites a decade ago) is to resist the impulse to blame an entire group for the actions of a few and to refuse to carry out identity-politics reprisals.

    http://www.juancole.com/2015/01/sharpening-contradictions-satirists.html

    We’re all in it together.

  118. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Whatever.

  119. Willard says:

    If you can’t argue for humanity’s sake, John, when will you?

  120. JCH says:

    Amazingly, people live longer in Minnesota and North Dakota than they do in Florida and Alabama. People live longer in Finland than they do in Spain. Are mild winters are more lethal than severe winters? Lol.

  121. John Hartz says:

    Perhaps there is reason to believe that rational thniking can trump political ideology after all….

    The climate debate has descended into an ideological battle of Left versus Right, with parties of the Left taking ownership of the moral necessity for climate action. It need not be so, writes Dale Hughes.

    .Climate change isn’t just a Leftist cause;by Dale Hughes, The Drum/ABC, Jan 2015

  122. BBD says:

    Willard is correct, as usual. Warming may cause crop failures, drought, starvation, disease etc that kill all year round. Pointing to historic heatwave mortality vs winter mortality is just rhetoric.

    FWIW, I think Juan Cole is absolutely right.

  123. Michael says:

    BBD,

    Lucifer is invoking the Tol Fallacy on temperature and mortality – assuming a change in mortality related to short term temperature change holds for true over the long term.

  124. Lucifer says:

    JCH,
    Amazingly, people live longer in Minnesota and North Dakota than they do in Florida and Alabama. People live longer in Finland than they do in Spain. Are mild winters are more lethal than severe winters? Lol.

    Here’s a good one for you.
    This is a chart of the leading cause of death in each country:

    Pink is an interesting signal – dying of hear disease means people have lived long enough to
    survive all the other calamities.

    It means economic development is a stronger advantage than climate.
    Strangely, heat stroke is not the leading cause of death anywhere.

  125. Lucifer says:

    Warming may cause crop failures, drought, starvation, disease etc

    It might.

    But given the lack of evidence, these things might also be imaginary.

  126. Willard says:

    ­> given the lack of evidence

    Lucifer doesn’t always ask for evidence, but when he is, it’s oftentimes about the future.

    Here’s what we can find in a 5 seconds search, John:

    The decline of Bronze-Age civilizations in Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia has been attributed to a long-term drought that began around 2000 BC. Now paleoclimatologists propose that a similar fate was followed by the enigmatic Indus Valley Civilization, at about the same time. Based on isotope data from the sediment of an ancient lake, the researchers suggest that the monsoon cycle, which is vital to the livelihood of all of South Asia, essentially stopped there for as long as two centuries.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/200-year-drought-doomed-indus-valley-civilization/

    Whatever the merits of the ClimateBall ™ round with Lucifer, John, notice how readers can now add another weapon to their arsenal.

  127. Joseph says:

    Joshua, I think many “skeptics” treat climate science almost like a political issue where facts and arguments obtained from “their side” are often accepted with very little skepticism. The problem is “their side” in this case is a tiny minority in the science community.

  128. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Am I the “John” who you are speaking to in your last two comments?

    Regardless, I believe that many, not all, of Lucifer’s comments are nothing more than “sloganeering.” Ifr he/she were posting them on a thread at Skeptical Scince, they would be summarily deleted — unless of course Tom Curtis responded to it before a Moderator (I am one) caught it.

    Denier memes are a dime a dozen and have been rebutted over and over and over. i strongly believe that a graffetti-free commendt thread results in a higher quality discussion than one that is laced with graffetti.

  129. anoilman says:

    Lucifer: Its pretty straight forward. Even the salmon don’t want to adapt;
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/rising-ocean-temperatures-could-wipe-out-chinook-salmon-study/article22178809/

    98% wipe out by 2100.

    So you want to close a lot of small towns, and put 10s of thousands people out of work. And with all we know at this time, the process is not reversible. We know that much.

    Sounds like a great plan… if your name is Lucifer.

  130. Marco says:

    Lucifer, could you please provide a link to the article associated with that map?

    I have some strong doubts about it supposedly showing the leading causes of death – based on WHO numbers of 2012, it simply doesn’t make any sense to claim the leading cause of death in China is liver cancer (malignant tumors – aka cancer – yes, maybe, but not liver cancer specifically). Bangladesh belongs to the group of countries with high prevalence of TB, but it simply isn’t even close to being the top-killer. The same goes for Birma/Myanmar and Madagascar. Mexico also doesn’t fit the numbers I have seen. Canada reports cancer as the leading cause of death for at least the period 2007-2011 (I could not find newer data on the Statistics Canada homepage). Heart disease is a close second in the early years (2007+2008), but has actually decreased.

    Regarding heat stroke the question is whether they are even recorded as such in many countries. It gets worse when you include its potential contributing role. Of course this applies to many diseases. It would not be the first time someone is ruled to have died from heart disease without adding the contributing role of e.g. diabetes, viral infection, etc.
    Epidemiological analyses have shown in several cases that heatwaves can increase mortality by 15-30%. I doubt many of those excess deaths have had the words “heat stroke” or similar added to their death certificate.

  131. Lucifer says:

    Willard,

    The decline of Bronze-Age civilizations in Egypt, Greece and Mesopotamia has been attributed to a long-term drought that began around 2000 BC. Now paleoclimatologists propose that a similar fate was followed by the enigmatic Indus Valley Civilization, at about the same time. Based on isotope data from the sediment of an ancient lake, the researchers suggest that the monsoon cycle, which is vital to the livelihood of all of South Asia, essentially stopped there for as long as two centuries.

    That’s an interesting story, but reflect for a moment that it means devastating droughts are natural. And, ( much is unknown about categorical long term intimations of declines ) there’s no indication that global temperature ( from any cause ) was correlated with the drought. There are many possible stable/semi-stable circulation states for the atmosphere.

  132. Lucifer says:

    Oilman,

    The study you cite indicates that you should not attempt to raise salmon in the tropics – sound advice.

    Beyond that, over-fishing and (god)dam building are threats to salmon. Global warming, not so much.,

  133. Lucifer says:

    Marco, you may have a point.

    The chart comes from :
    http://enggpt.blogspot.com/2014/06/heres-which-disease-is-most-likely-to.html#more

    which sites the latest UN data. But it is not age-adjusted.

    Never-the-less, the point that weather and climate are not significant causes of death, remains.

  134. jsam says:

    “the point that weather and climate are not significant causes of death” does not follow from your data. Feel free to try again.

  135. Willard says:

    ­Yes, John, by “John” I am referring to you. There’s not much other “John” here who seldom offers any kind of argument, who cheer leads, plays the ref, and dog piles the way you do, John.

    If what you say is true:

    ­> Denier memes are a dime a dozen and have been rebutted over and over and over.

    then you have no excuse not to rebut them over and over and over again. Whining that they’re not deleted plays the ref, dog piling is ungentlemanly, therefore all that remains is cheerleading.

    That you’re using my comments to again play the ref (“if it was SkS” indeed) and add to your dog piling (“denier memes”) just shows the extent of your repertoire.

    By chance you offer a link from time to time.

  136. Willard says:

    > reflect for a moment that it means devastating droughts are natural

    Before I chase that squirrel, dear Lucifer, please concede that droughts can kill people, whatever their cause.

    I’ve heard that you’re a leftist, or at least a lefty. Is that true?

  137. John Hartz says:

    Willard: Ho hum!

  138. Before I chase that squirrel, dear Lucifer, please concede that drought can kill people, whatever their cause.

    Yes, let’s do this slowly and at least acknowledge this self-evident truth.

  139. John Hartz says:

    ATTP/Rachel: My inner voice is telling me that the person behind the “Lucifer” screen may also be behind the “Michael2” screen.

  140. JH,
    I think your inner voice is wrong 🙂

  141. Willard says:

    My inner voice is telling me that you’re confusing a freedom fighter with an honest broker, John.

  142. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:
    JH, I think your inner voice is wrong

    That would not be for the first time, nor the last.

    I do, however, note that Lucifer’s intitial posts seem to be different in tone and substance than his/her more recent posts. Perhaps there is more than one person pulling the levers behind that screen.

  143. BBD says:

    Lucifer

    Never-the-less, the point that weather and climate are not [yet] significant causes of death, remains.

    That edit would place us both on the same page.

    As has been pointed out many, many times before, current climatic conditions (and eg. associated mortality) cannot be used as an argument that different future climatic conditions will not have different demographic impacts (eg. mortality). Do you understand this?

  144. Infopath says:

    JH:
    “Denier memes are a dime a dozen and have been rebutted over and over and over. i strongly believe that a graffetti-free commendt thread results in a higher quality discussion than one that is laced with graffetti.”

    John, while this is true, some of us (I don’t know who’s ‘us’ — say, somewhat informed members of the public with an interest in the AGW ‘debate’), look for ‘contrarian’ comments to see how they’re handled (ClimateBallTM voyeurism?). Sometimes I prefer a rebuttal to a deletion, even of tiresome memes. That’s why I love when the insanely prolific Tom Curtis beats the mods at SkS and answers some eye-roller comment by a ‘skeptics,’ however inane.

    The very first time I read ATTP’s blog, there was a thread (can’t find it now) where someone’s comments were respectfully and systematically rebutted by ATTP and Rachel, while others (BBD one of them if I remember correctly), were effusively alerting ATTP that this person was a troll extraordinaire. BBD was absolutely right as it turned out, but the fact that ATTP and Rachel gave him/her the benefit of the doubt for as long as they did, and the fact that they rebutted his/her arguments and not him/her, made me a daily reader of this blog. I suspect it may be the same for others.

    But I also understand that “moderating a site can be a tiresome…” etc. etc. 🙂

    Lucifer regurgitates permutations of one exhausted argument (we were warmer and thrived), which has been already rebutted in other threads (rate, rate, rate). But Lucifer (a-la Tol) seems much more interested in being right than in searching for truth.

    Dikran (a thousand comments ago): I’m glad you didn’t interrupt your workout, seeing all that pink in the latest Lucifer map 😉

  145. mt says:

    “So, since climate science is one of those sciences that are very heavily based on probability theory and statistics” … no, it isn’t really.

  146. verytallguy says:

    but reflect for a moment that it means devastating droughts are natural.

    In which Lucifer sells us a tense dummy.   

    Nice move Lucifer! 

  147. John Hartz says:

    infopath: Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. Patience has never been one of my strong suits.

  148. John Hartz says:

    Willard: I know that you have an excellent sense of humor. You should employ it more often.

  149. mt says:

    Lucifer: “If you are implying that warming indirectly causes death, I invite you to rectify that belief with the seasonal variation.”

    What nonsense! We are talking about climate change, not about temperature change.

    I am very tired of people confusing the fever with the disease. Nobody lives or dies of global mean surface temperature.

    Again this smacks of deliberate obfuscation, or very deep confusion at best.

    Global warming is a useful and important measure of climate change. But it isn’t climate change, and it certainly isn’t a direct mechanism of mortality.

  150. mt says:

    “That’s an interesting story, but reflect for a moment that it means devastating droughts are natural.” As in, “my client is innocent of murder on the grounds that people die all the time”.

    With that I would definitively vote Lucifer off the island. Quality over quantity, please.

  151. With that I would definitively vote Lucifer off the island. Quality over quantity, please.

    Yes, that is rather a give away. You may have a point.

  152. mt says:

    This is the challenge of running a climate blog. You can start an interesting conversation. A few extraordinary people come along and wonderful ideas get exchanges.

    When this happens, before too long, along comes a sealion. The number of comments triples. At first you feel that you have achieved an even more vibrant conversation. But then you see that what had been interesting has deteriorated to one person politely uttering the most vapid and ill-considered nonsense, and a lot of other people spluttering about it.

    I am sorry I replied to Lucifer.

  153. MT,
    Oh, I know. It also goes in cycles. When I have the time to moderate more strictly, things get better and moderation gets easier. Then I relax a bit and it all starts going the other way. I’ve also noticed that it’s hard to get the balance right. Some think I moderate too much, others not enough (of course, maybe that is getting that balance about right 🙂 ). Of course, I should probably acknowledge that one problem might be that my co-moderator is away in Barcelona and Rachel is both tougher and better at this than I am 🙂

  154. Rachel M says:

    I’m just back from dinner and yes, I haven’t been following the comments so well this week. Sorry about that! And no, I’m not tougher and better at this but you probably are a bit of a softy 🙂

    One thing I’ve always thought is that if people from both sides are criticising the moderation then the balance is probably pretty good.

  155. russellseitz says:

    Joseph, let us not forget the dopamine driven reinforcement that modulates the behavior of those who get off on being common scolds, though it must of course be distinguished from the mere sadism that appears drive campaigns to incrementally repress smokers and roll back their freedom of asembly by cruelly exposing them to the elements .

  156. Willard says:

    > by cruelly exposing them to the elements.

    Be glad you’re not homeless in Montreal these days:

    http://weather.gc.ca/trends_table/pages/yul_metric_e.html

    Go home, vortex, you’re drunk!

  157. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Rachel, have you tried the Montjuic swimming pool yet? Well worth the slog up the hill, which is (or was, many decades ago) punctuated by beautiful little public gardens where you could stop and have a restoring fag while admiring the view. (If you’re travelling como hippie, it used to be possible to kip on the roof of a public toilet about half way up. Probably not advisable unless one of your hubbies is with you.)

  158. John Hartz says:

    [Mod: About moderation and I don’t think this would be a good idea ~Rachel]

  159. John Hartz says:

    MT: I sincerely hope that you will not incur the wrath of the Great Kahn Willard for suggesting that Lucifer be banned. He hammered me for doing so.

  160. Willard says:

    A moderator would delete your last two comments, John, and no, I don’t think turning AT’s like a dogpiling echo chamber would be a good idea. MT’s paying a steep price for his editorial choices, and I think he already knows how I feel about it.

    That ClimateBall players can’t deal with sea lions is their own problem. They deserve every ounce of conceptual knots they can’t untangle. Only bad teachers need to shout.

    Another bit about otters:

    All good people agree,
    And all good people say,
    All nice people, like Us, are We
    And everyone else is They:
    But if you cross over the sea,
    Instead of over the way,
    You may end by (think of it!) looking on We
    As only a sort of They!

    —Rudyard Kipling

    http://laphamsquarterly.org/foreigners/them

  161. Michael Quirke: Conversation with Dr. Kevin Trenberth.

    I had engaged with Dr. Trenberth shortly after the Forum started about a year ago. He was interested in the project but expressed some concerns that the platform might “provid[e] a creditable outlet for deniers of climate change” and warned me that “[t]here are many vested interests who may well try to exploit [CCNF’s] declared openness.” He also said that the “IPCC reports are consensus reports of the community and involv[e] hundreds of scientists” and “[a]s a result are very conservative.”

    I caught him while he was walking between the Moscone South and West buildings and joined him on his trip. I recalled our last exchange and informed him that the potential outcomes he had expressed concern about had not come to pass, in that no scientist has yet to enter the Forum and make an argument that man-made emissions are not causing the planet to warm and no “vested interest” has attempted to influence the dialogue in any way.

    I also mentioned that based on my reading of the recently released Summary for Policymakers (SPM) for the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, its positions on the science did in fact seem conservative when compared with many of the positions expressed by the contributing scientists on CCNF.

    It was a very brief exchange and Dr. Trenberth is a soft speaker, so I can’t give you exact quotes (note to self: turn your recorder on before engaging with big whigs), but he did affirm his earlier statement and then mentioned something about a ‘type II error’ and the fact that many scientists go with a more conservative position than they otherwise would because they are afraid of being “called out”.

    I took this to mean that scientists purposefully take a low ball position or hold back in highlighting the “tail risks” of certain projections because they don’t want to be called an “alarmist.” Basically, if the impact or temperature rise or whatever is larger than expected, they won’t get called out for underestimating the outcome as much as they would if they overshot the response and it didn’t manifest itself at the estimated time or turned out to be lower than expected. I later checked out what a Type II error was. It’s a little over my head (I’m a liberal arts-educated simpleton), but – based on my reading – it is basically assuming there is no connection between two phenomena when there actually is a connection.

    Anyhow, it was an interesting exchange.

    – See more at: http://climatechangenationalforum.org/im-not-a-scientist-but-you-poster-blows-my-mind-highlights-bloopers-at-agu14/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=im-not-a-scientist-but-you-poster-blows-my-mind-highlights-bloopers-at-agu14#sthash.11L3UC9G.dpuf

  162. Robert B says:

    I haven’t read all of the comments because I can’t. They’re full of rubbish like the Oreskes article.

    It shows a cartoon of the Earth melting and goes on to suggest using evidence that the claim of impending catastrophes is not consistent with the data is somehow illogical or immoral.

    Scientists choose two times the standard deviation or 95% confidence interval out of habit. If the confidence intervals of two results are just overlapping, then there is a quarter of a percent chance that the results were the same and that is enough to know that they are not different beyond reasonable doubt (subjective choice and assumes that the calculations were correct). Its not about being sure a prediction is going to be correct.

    25% of total human emissions have been in the last 15 years when the rate of warming is a fraction of the rate from a linear regression fit to the 15 years before 1940, when the amount of human emissions were less than 2% of the total. Even with proper estimates of the 95%CI, it is less now than back then. This doesn’t refute global warming, the greenhouse effect or prove that warming has stopped. It is inconsistent with the claims that human emissions will lead to 1-4°C higher temperatures by the end of the century. You don’t have to be much of a scientist to spot it and that is why few will jump on board.

    You have to be very careful when you use linear regression to claim that you know for sure what is happening. Pointing out that it contradicts a prediction doesn’t have the same pitfalls. eg. A linear regression of gun related deaths in Australia seems to have led to a claim that 200 lives were saved in Australia since the new gun laws in 1996. The biggest drop in gun related deaths was 175 the next year and then the biggest yearly increase happened the year after, 55 per year. The actual trend over a few decades is the same as for suicides, homicides and accidents. Comparison with NZ which has similar gun laws as Australia before 1996 suggests that 1.4 people per year are saved by the new laws, or 28 since 1996.

  163. John Hartz says:

    Willard: I demand that you cease and desist from misrepresenting my comments. I have never advoacted that ATTP turn this website into “dog-pilling echo chamber.” It’s a shame that you resort to such a tactic when someone rubs you the wrong way.

  164. Willard says:

    > I have never advoacted that ATTP turn this website into “dog-pilling echo chamber.”

    Here you go:

    Ifr he/she were posting them on a thread at Skeptical Scince, they would be summarily deleted — unless of course Tom Curtis responded to it before a Moderator (I am one) caught it.

    You’re welcome.

  165. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Kirby Delauter.

  166. MikeH says:

    Willard.

    Here you go

    Regardless, I believe that many, not all, of Lucifer’s comments are nothing more than “sloganeering.” Ifr he/she were posting them on a thread at Skeptical Scince, they would be summarily deleted — unless of course Tom Curtis responded to it before a Moderator (I am one) caught it.

    You’re welcome.

  167. AnOilMan says:

    Lucifer… Why oh why am I arguing with a guys called Lucifer. Common sense is that he’s an evil angel…

    Lucifer…. Oh great one.. I think you’re trolling.

    Just so’s you get it… Here’s the paper, and at 24.5C and salmon die.
    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate2473.html

    Here’s what the temperatures are projected at;
    http://www.pacificclimate.org/sites/default/files/publications/Climate_Summary-West_Coast.pdf

    So, it takes a hot spell or hot spot to trigger a die off.

    But what makes this interesting is that Anthony Farrel is an expert on this. He’s saying its going to happen too fast. If it had occurred over a slower time frame, then loses would be significantly lower. Check out some of his previous work proving that if you’re interested.

  168. Rachel M says:

    Vinny,

    Yes, we have walked past the Montjuic swimming pool. It was quite a sight! I’m not particularly interested in sleeping on top of the public toilets though. I take it you’re having a joke with me here?

  169. Rachel M says:

    Can we please end the discussion about moderation? If people want to make suggestions about moderation that is fine but please use the contact form – https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/contact/ – rather than the comment thread.

  170. Yes, maybe we draw a close to the discussion on moderation. It’s not perfect and I’m reasonably happy with how it’s going.

    Robert B.,

    This doesn’t refute global warming, the greenhouse effect or prove that warming has stopped. It is inconsistent with the claims that human emissions will lead to 1-4°C higher temperatures by the end of the century.

    No, that doesn’t really follow. Surface temperatures are indeed rising slower than expected and slower than they have before. However, this doesn’t mean that global warming itself has slowed, since the system as a whole (Oceans) continue to accrue energy. What is more likely is that we are going through a slower phase driven by some kind of internal variability. Additionally, how much we warm by 2100 depends on how much we decide to emit. Along a high emission pathway, we would increase anthropogenic forcings by 5-6 Wm-2. Even if climate sensitivity is on the low side, that would still lead to 2 – 3oC more than today, by 2100.

  171. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Rachel: ‘I take it you’re having a joke with me here?’

    No, just incontinent nostalgia.

    Misremembered incontinent nostalgia, too. It’s all come back to me now. When I slept on top of the public toilet it was very clean and flat and spacious and there was a splendid view of the port but, even though it was late July or perhaps very early August, it was bloody freezing up there and I hardly got a wink.

    And the Montjuic swimming pool wasn’t there back then – I have only ever seen it on the telly. The thing I slogged up the hill to see was the castle, and that was 10 minutes off closing by the time I got there.

    I wish I hadn’t mentioned it now. Happy memories crumbling into confabulation the more I think about them.

  172. Rachel M says:

    Vinny,

    The swimming pool is in an amazing spot. But listening to people urinate when I’m trying to sleep is not my idea of a good time.

  173. dikranmarsupial says:

    Infopath indeed, and I was also able to watch Gavin Schmidt’s excellent talk on advocacy while I was exercising, so time doubly well spent! ;o)

  174. BBD says:

    dikranmarsupial

    Thanks for striking a blow against the genderist propagandising that men cannot multi-task 😉

  175. Reading what Gavin writes I didn’t notice anything that I don’t agree on.

    I do not, however, believe that accepting and even genuinely internalizing everything in that article is enough. People would still continue to disagree on what’s responsible and what’s irresponsible advocacy. They would still disagree on what the following sentence of Gavin implies for any particular issue: There are many complexities and uncertainties, to be sure, but also many fundamental features that are as well established as any textbook science. It’s also difficult to keep to standards like that even with the best attempt.

    Having said that I do believe that people who have given a serious thought on what Gavin is discussing contribute to the public discussion in a much more valuable way than people who dismiss such concerns. Gavin himself is a positive example of that (at least during most recent years, I know less of his earlier contributions).

  176. My purpose was to write the above comment in the thread on Gavin’s article.

  177. Pekka,
    Yes, I did wonder. I can’t really move it. If you want to copy it into the other thread, I can delete this, though.

    I do agree with this, though.

    People would still continue to disagree on what’s responsible and what’s irresponsible advocacy.

  178. Eli Rabett says:

    Moderation in all things including moderation. Laissez les bon temps roulez

  179. John Hartz says:

    ATTP & Rachel: My apologies to you for getting into a peeing match with Willard on this thread. It was unseemly – – – and a total waste of my time and enerrgy.

  180. anoilman says:

    Eli, its all OK until someone makes Hasenpfeffer…

  181. Rachel M says:

    No need to say sorry, John Hartz 🙂

  182. Bronsom Griscom has posted on the issue discussed in thread. He seems to agree on the problem that Naomi Oreskes is discussing, but he makes also the same point I have tried to make in this thread (and also earlier):

    Along these lines, Oreskes emphasizes that science is prone to “being too conservative and missing causes and effects that are really there.” She states that scientists “often refuse to use the language of danger even when danger is precisely what they are talking about.” In making these points, it seems that Naomi is asking scientists to be more like normal people.

    This sort of scientific common sense might seem very appealing. But as a scientist, I can’t agree with it. Science should not be confused with common sense. If it is, it risks losing the specific value it offers to society — a particularly credible and unbiased source of information.

    Scientists should be circumspect about jumping too deeply into an advocacy role — because too much advocacy by scientists can undermine the objective credibility of the scientific community. Likewise, I think scientists should continue to be conservative in how we interpret data. If scientists do shift into a common-sense advocacy role (as well-informed humans with even a vestige of common sense may be prone to do), we should point out that we are speaking as normal citizens, rather than as our alter-ego: delusionally conservative data rats.

  183. Pekka,
    We don’t need to go in circles about this, but I do think there’s an element of strawmanning here. I don’t percieve Naomi Oreskes as suggesting that scientists should be more willing to present their scientifical results more confidently than the analysis justifies. I think she’s trying to distinguish between how one might discuss the scientific results specifically, and the risks associated with that science. If I’m not sure that something is going to happen, but I’m pretty sure that the consequences will be severe if it does, I might still speak out.

  184. Steve Bloom says:

    Failing to adequately raise an alarm when it’s called for can also undermine credibility.

    I took Griscom’s piece to mean that he won’t exceed his personal advocacy.comfort level, which is fair enough (noting the irony that he works for an environmental NGO, albeit a relatively conservative one). But as more and more scientists speak out, I expect his comfort level will increase..

  185. Eli Rabett says:

    Sorry Pekka, that fails the same bullshit test that all formalist nonsense does. You get your results and then you look for simple rules that falsify your interpretation of them. Here is an example of what happens when you trust your specifications

  186. John Hartz says:

    Pekka: The more interesting part of Griscom’s article is what comes after the portion that you have quoted, i.e.,

    That said, here’s where I totally agree with Oreskes — and here’s my bottom line: scientists need to do a better job explaining to the rest of society that scientists are not normal, and we are definitely not liberal in our methods.

    t is critical that the public understands just how conservative the scientific community is about communicating data. If we can do a better job explaining this to the rest of society, then the rest of society can do a better job advocating for sensible climate policy.

    In other words, as a common-sense citizen, I think you should be FREAKED OUT by the drivel — i.e., the wonderfully dry, painstakingly measured and conservative scientific conclusions — of the IPCC.

    Wait, one more qualifier. As a scientist, I must remind you that we cannot say with absolute certainty if humans are causing a global climate change catastrophe. It is virtually impossible to predict anything with absolute certainty about the future of our planet. What this does mean is that humans are more likely to be causing a global climate change catastrophe than you realized. Which leaves use each with a common sense question: should I do something about it?

    See more at: http://blog.nature.org/science/2015/01/08/science-communication-climate-change-delusional-disorder-conservative-methodology/#sthash.lYUk8S9f.dpuf

  187. John,
    I may have a bias, but I think that Griscom’s thinking is not in contradiction with what I wrote here

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/gavin-schmidt-on-advocacy-2/#comment-42579

    One question is what keeps you motivated to communicate and to search for better ways of communicating, and another is what ways are the best in the long run. No single approach is likely to be the best, but a coherent combination of many approaches. By coherent I mean that it should not contain parts that cause more damage in other ways, when it appears productive from a narrow point of view.

  188. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Rachel, I can now see that my public toilet nostalgia was a tad insensitive. Sorry.

    You do know that you can now get a pill to help you sleep if you have noisily pissing neighbours?

    Haven’t tried it. I suspect the BBC World Service is probably just as effective.

  189. Rachel M says:

    Thanks, Vinny. I’m back at home and so don’t need to worry about noisy neighbours now. I’m also not keen on taking sleeping pills.

    Your comment was very strange though. Don’t you *hate* hippies?

  190. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Rachel, anyone who isn’t a head at twenty has no heart.
    (Mistyped e-mail. Sorry.)

  191. John Hartz says:

    Parson’s OP will send a shiver up and down your spine…

    With 2015 billed as the make-it-or-break-it year for climate control, in anticipation of next December’s Paris conference, and in the midst of much vehement – if not downright virulent – controversy, it is worth proposing some perspective beyond what most of the media deign to serve up to us.

    Smoke and Mirrors Will Not Save Us From Anthropogenic Climate Disruption by Robert James Parsons, Truthout | Op-Ed, Jan 10, 2015

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